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'I thought it was an unbelievable support considering the position we were in'

Munster head coach Anthony Foley was pleased with a win but knows that hard work lies ahead.

POST-MATCH PRESS conferences with Anthony Foley in recent months have been downbeat, uncomfortable affairs, so it was good to see the Munster head coach cracking a smile and making jokes yesterday.

Foley, more than anyone, is aware that the 26-13 win over Stade Français doesn’t realistically change much, but a bonus-point win after an aggressive performance is a starting point in rebuilding their season as much as possible.

Simon Zebo and Francis Saili celebrate after the game The smiles on Munster faces were a welcome sight in Limerick. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I thought the boys played with a lot of pride and a lot of character out there,” was Foley’s immediate thought after the game, before he launched into a critical evaluation of Munster’s inability to “shape” the game more intelligently.

With the French visitors stacking 14 defenders in their frontline, Foley felt his side could have kicked into the backfield in the first half, rather than slamming into double-team tackles phase after phase.

“There’s different learnings to come out of this,” said Foley. “There was a quarter-final against Ulster here a number of years ago where they just put 14 in the frontline and we continued to run into it.

“At times we need to shape that differently and we’ll be looking at that next week, in how we shape an opposition who wants to fill the 70 metres across the pitch with 14 men, and where the space is.

“We want to run with the ball and carry the ball, but there’s no point in playing into a brick wall. It’s about shaping the game that we want to play and sometimes that’s putting it in behind and playing in different areas of the pitch.”

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Some “very nice individual tries” helped Foley’s side to emerge with a heartening win, while the Munster head coach pointed to the performance in the stands at Thomond Park as the highlight of the day.

Anthony Foley The hard work is only starting for Munster. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Over 14,000 fans turned up in Limerick to show their support after last weekend’s dark day in Paris.

“I thought it was an unbelievable support there today considering the position we were in,” said Foley. “I thought they came, took part in the game and got in behind the boys. Both fed off each other nicely today and it was a good European atmosphere out there.”

This victory will lift spirits in the Munster group, take some of the weight from their shoulders, but Foley stressed that it’s meaningless if they cannot back it up against Treviso next weekend and then carry momentum into the Pro12 trip to Zebre later this month.

“There was a lot of hurt going out on the pitch today, a lot of fellas looking at one another, demanding better performances, demanding more out of one another,” said Foley.

“The performance wasn’t perfect out there, it wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination. But I think a lot of things can get covered up by hard work, covering off and making sure your buddy has your inside. If somebody drops a ball, somebody dives on it.”

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Murray Kinsella

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